Sunday, December 28, 2008

Calling things by their true names

There are plenty of good people doing just that with regard to the latest Israeli assault on Gaza's civilians. Take Lenin's Tomb, as but one example:
Here is a seasonal treat for the yapping terriers of the Israel fan club: Israeli air strikes have killed 140 205 people in Gaza. Apparently, the furore over Gaza and its disgraceful oppression of the indigenous people of southern Israel (go with it) is producing soaring support for the Israeli far right. The difference between the far right parties and Kadima is that the far right wants to ethnically cleanse Palestinian towns in Gaza and incorporate them into Israel, using the Qassam rocket fire into Sderot as a pretext, while the Kadima administration has so far preferred to do it gradually, starving Gaza and depriving it of electricity and water.

Consider: according to the UN, the Israeli blockade has resulted in Palestinians receiving running water only once every five to seven days. UNRWA ran out of flour some time ago, and Gaza's bakeries have warned they will have to close down. No more bread. 70% of Gazans already had no reliable source of food. Poverty is soaring, with nine out of ten Gazans living below the poverty line. Gazan families have been forced to eat grass to survive. And if those people aren't sufficiently careful in their selection of pasture, they may end up taking home a poisoned batch, because raw sewage has been pumping out into the streets and into the soil since the blockade was first imposed.

The purpose of this sadistic policy, punctuated by frequent bouts of blood-letting, is supposedly to produce an end to the Qassam rocket attacks. If this appears to be a feeble excuse for imposing such misery on one and a half million people, bear in mind that at least the Qassams - unlike Saddam's WMD arsenal - actually exist. By the standard of our times, Israel's casus belli is indisputable. And if sanctions on Iraq killed up to a million people, what is a little 'diet' in Gaza? As for legality, the policy has been supported by the Israeli supreme court, whose impartiality in the matter could hardly be more obvious. Am I over-doing it with the heavy irony here? The true purpose of the blockade is the same as that which lay behind the blockade first imposed upon the election of Hamas, with the support of the Quartet. And it is the same as that behind the coup-plotting that led to Dahlan's gangs being booted out of Gaza while Fatah seized control of the West Bank. It is to force the population of Gaza into changing their political behaviour and voting for a tame leadership that will, as Fatah did throughout the 1990s, tolerate Israel's regular incursions and the growing network of colonies meshed together by 'Jewish Only' roads (not to mention Jewish Only land). It is to accomplish by gradual and insidious means what the brutes of the Israeli far right would like to accomplish in another six day war: politicide. The final, successful destruction of Palestine as a potential nation.

The options for a 'Jewish state' determined to maintain itself as such, with a majority no lower than 80%, are few. Obviously, any recognition of Palestine as a free nation is anathema to a wide swathe of Israeli opinion, including much elite opinion. And Israeli leaders have never shown any sign that they are willing to contemplate this. Just as surely as Gaza is an "enemy entity" today, a truly independent Palestine would be a mortal enemy entity, calling into question by its very existence the whole narrative and rationale behind a 'Jewish state' built out of blood and iron in an Arab country. However, the incorporation of a Palestinian Arab population into Israel would undermine the labyrinthine racial hierarchy that Israel's leaders have so assiduously constructed. What commentators are apt to describe as the "demographic timebomb" is a colonial one: how to get the territory and at the same dispose of the troublesome population. In a previous era, it might have entailed little difficulty just to drive them out in a bloody purge and force the surviving refugees to try and integrate as discarded untermenschen into societies run by bribed police states. As Benny Morris has said, it would have been much easier for Israel had it simply completed the task in 1948. Now, they've got to answer to the soft-headed humanitarianism of modern television audiences, and they've got to pretend to be the victims. All they have to assist them in this task is a few measly rockets being lobbed into southern Israel to little effect. They don't even have the suicide attacks that characterised the Second Intifada, during which time the decontextualised focus on explosions ensured that people in the West largely missed the fact that Israel was knocking of Palestinian civilians at a much higher rate than the suicide attacks were killing Israelis. With so little to assist its PR plight, no wonder Israel needs its overseas contingent of berserkers more than ever. Just watch, and wait: as Israel ramps up its attacks on Gaza, the permanently livid fellowship of offshore Middle Earth colonists will be spitting about Sderot, about terrorism, about Islam, about the world's unfair bias against the plucky little Levantine racists, about anything in the world except what is being done and what has been done, deliberately and brutally, to Palestine.
In other words - the word we're looking for is genocide, as folks like Raphael Lemkin would define it. See also Ten Percent, which has plenty of up-to-date commentary on events in Gaza, as well as of the reactions of the human rights community; and Chris Floyd, who posted Christmas 2008: Hell in the Holy Land.

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